Sometimes, I have moments of clarity, times when I know I should pay attention, slow down, take in the experience because it won't last. This divine and revelatory consciousness comes upon me about once every ten years, when, in fact, it should exist with every single breath I take.
One time I remember feeling this was back in the early nineties in a fiction class I took with Anne Lamott. As I was standing in front of the class and Anne reading my story, I realized that my tale had caught the audience. There was that hush that comes when people are truly listening. Then there was the hush and the energy of them feeling the story. As I read--and I was so nervous--I thought, Take your time, Jessica. Savor this. It won't always be here. Enjoy.
So I read every word, felt the feelings I had put on the page. When Anne wrote, "You are an amazingly good writer" on my story, I thought, Maybe I am.
That room, that feeling, that moment had showed me that something more than a story was possible. And I allowed myself to feel it despite my nerves and fear. I paid attention, and that attention allowed me to receive the entire experience and remember it. I recently came across that story and Anne's comments. I re-read both the story and her words because I had forgotten both, but I have never forgotten the feeling and energy in that room.
I have made myself available to experiences in this way when I knew they would end and that they were important. In my sister's hospital room as she died. I needed to be there, even though I was desperate to be anywhere but. When I was giving birth. The last few times I was with my children, I just sort of plopped my consciousness into my body and listened. It all goes by so fast and it's all we have. Why not take as much as possible from what we are given?
As writers, we often take these experiences and use them in our work. A poem is often that moment caught, a space where the writer can hang out in the experience. But often, the writer won't be in the experience because it's too hard or painful and will chose to write about it later because it's safer. Living is always harder than writing about living.
Yesterday I had the opportunity to watch someone not be in the experience. It was painful to see the person flit across the surface, with the only clear message Get me the hell out of here.
I know that's a good message to have during traffic accidents and hurricanes and holocausts of various kinds. But with experiences that are not putting our lives in danger, why not take it all in and wallow a bit? Stay awhile. Remember it because it's all we have, for better or worse. Here and now, the old saw. Here it is.
Causes Jessica Inclán Supports
Women for Women International Goodwill Industries Lindsey Wildlife Museum Freecycle.org